Restaurant Marketing Report - 7 Secrets To A Full Restaurant

Simple ideas and strategies to put "bums on seats" and fill your restaurant or cafe with paying customers.

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Sunday, 24 June 2012

Mr Restaurateur your phone is ringing!

It is Friday night just before 7pm. My wife Helen and I have both been busy. We haven’t thought about dinner. Do we cook or do we go out?

For busy working couples this probably sounds familiar. We haven’t planned ahead and there is nothing quick and easy to eat in the fridge. I am sure you can relate. We decide to eat out.

The first restaurant…
We had wanted to try a local Japanese Teppanyaki restaurant for some time. I rang the restaurant only to find it is on voice mail. No greetings message from the restaurant just an automated message, saying something like “leave your number and we will call you back”. Worse the message bank was full. I had left a message a few days before and I am still waiting for the call back. Oh well, these guys are definitely off “my eat out” list. Easy business lost.

The second restaurant…
So next I decided to ring “Roberto’s Pizzeria” (name changed) to see if we can get a table. A friendly but rushed girl answered the phone after it rang a while. She answers something like, “Roberto’s Pizzeria. How can I help you?” I ask if we can get a table for two in about 20/30 minutes. She says “Just a minute.” And immediately puts me on hold. While I wait I get blasted with some squawky music. I wait about 3 or 4 minutes and then someone else picks up the phone and says “How can I help you?” I repeat my request. Then I get the classic “Just a minute” and it is back to the squawky music and waits another 3 or 4 minutes. Helen is saying hang up, hang up we will go somewhere else. Then finally another completely different person answers the phone and asks “How can I help you?” And we hang up!

We jump in the car and do a walk in at another Italian Restaurant and ending up having a great meal. Now I am the first to admit, it is Friday night. Most restaurants will be busy. However, it is when you are busy; your business is really tested. You need to train you staff in proper telephone handling procedures to ensure an exceptional experience.

Make your customers feel special…
Aim to make all callers feel special even if you are full. Remember they have thought of dining with you as against the competition and you want to value that. If you cannot accommodate their request they are going to dine with a competitor and you immediately risk losing the relationship. To offset this you need to establish a strategy to handle this to retain the good will of the customer.

For example you could say something like this…  “Thank you so much for trying to book with us tonight. Unfortunately, we are full tonight and we feel really bad we can’t look after you. We really value your business and to make up for it we would like to send you a voucher for a free entrĂ©e/ main/dessert (whatever) to make up for it.” The customer is going think wow! That is good, and will really appreciate it. Your voucher could be for midweek use. You don’t need to mention that. Just that you are sending them a gift. In this way you create a lot of good will and an incentive to re dine when you are otherwise quiet.

Establish basic telephone answering procedures…
Ensure phones are answered within 3 rings…there is nothing worse in the restaurant with a telephone ringing continuously in the back ground
Create a uniform greeting for your restaurant that is friendly and warm e.g. “Good Evening. Roberto’s Pizzeria. It is Sally Anne Speaking. May I ask who is speaking please? <answer> Thank you <name> How may I help you tonight?” or variations on that.
Tell customers you are placing customers on hold and why… customers can understand if you tell them what is going on e.g. you need to get the supervisor to handle the booking, etc. But don’t leave them dangling as happened at Roberto’s.
Set out telephone procedures for common transactions and requests for 
  • Bookings or orders
  • Function or catering inquires or requests
  • Giving directions to the restaurant (have a standard set of directions by each phone staff can easily refer to)
  • Message handling to ensure messages are responded to promptly and are passed on
  • Complaint handling
  • Employment enquires
  • General information on the restaurant
  • Etc.
Finishing or closing the call e.g. “Thank you for calling Roberto’s. Before you go is there anything else I can help with? <Answer> Thanks for calling. Have a great night”.
Never put your telephone on message bank during your core hours of service. You are open and your customers want to be able to reach you and do business.

Prepare to Wow your customers by collecting information…
When any one calls the restaurant this is a great opportunity to find out…
If they are visiting for any special occasion e.g. birthdays, anniversaries, etc. You can surprise them with special cards, gifts, acknowledgements
If they have any special dietary requirements
Have they been before… acknowledge that on arrival or if new you can welcome accordingly
Member of your loyalty program…plant the seed/ reinforce the program
Get email, mobile phone numbers, address, etc.

Constantly review and monitor telephone answering performance
Be a customer, or get a friend to be a customer and monitor what happens. I suggest you record the call so you can provide constructive feedback to your team.  Don’t beat them over the head but coach them to reach optimum performance.  These standards are often not taught. Don’t assume they know. Instead invest time in training your people and you will be well rewarded with the results.